What were your thoughts about this controversy at the time it was unraveling?
I don’t think it was an accident that pornography became an issue at a time when the number of women on campus was doubling. I think there was an element of sending women a message about their place in the scheme of things lurking behind the defense of a principle. One still hears women confronted with the view that they made it into MIT because of their gender and not their innate abilities. In any event what troubled me most was the inability of one segment of the campus to be able to empathize with how pornography made another segment feel.
Have your opinions about this matter changed at all in retrospect?
What do you think the importance of this incident was, in terms of what the students got out of it compared to the faculty?
For one thing the student-run Lecture Series Committee (LSC) no longer shows a pornographic movie on Registration Day. That is a great step forward in civilizing our community. I have no doubt that pornography is still shown/viewed in more private settings. But at least it is no longer a part of the “welcoming” ritual of MIT freshmen.
As for the faculty, I doubt many of them were very much aware of the turmoil that the issue had created on campus. They were, as they so often are, focused on their research and teaching to the exclusion of issues of community culture. I wouldn’t be surprised if much of the faculty had no idea that a pornographic movie was part of the Registration Day ritual at MIT.
Do you think that over the course of years, matters like these are necessary for the progress of both institutions and student populations?
I think that confronting bad behavior is always a good thing to do. I am not in favor of “doing” anything to students who behave badly, but I am in favor of holding up a mirror to what they are doing. The same goes, of course, for the faculty.